Questions about “Mahr”
Sr Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood.
I have posted this article in response to the many questions I get asked on this subject, in the hopes that my thoughts may perhaps help others, insha’Allah.
1.Could you explain what ‘mahr’ or bride-price is within the context of Muslim marriage?
The mahr is the sum of money or other property which the husband agrees to pay to his bride on or shortly after the marriage. It becomes her property, and is hers to keep (and not split with him) if the marriage ends in divorce. If the husband refuses to divorce and she has no genuine grounds to be rid of him, she can take her case to a judge, who may end their marriage if she returns the mahr to the husband. In ‘normal’ divorce, either side has grounds for it and normal divorce law applies. Since it is hard for happy couples to be considering possible divorce at their weddings, a responsible adult adviser is usually important to negotiate these things tactfully and sensibly, and get it all clearly and properly witnessed so that it is legally binding.
There are various requirements for a nikah marriage to be accepted as valid according to the various schools of Islam.
The Maliki school has five compulsory requirements:
· The wali (competent guardian of the bride) must consent to the marriage
· The bridegroom must be legally, mentally and physically competent to marry
· The bride must be competent to marry as above, and should neither be in iddah (waiting period after divorce) nor in the state of ihram (ritual purity, as for Hajj).
· There should be clearly agreed sighah – that is (a) ijab – the proposal, and (b) qabul – the acceptance
· The mahr payment must be agreed.
The Shafi‘ i school insists on the first four requirements, and requires that sighah must take place in the presence of two witnesses. The dowry should be agreed, but if it is not the marriage will still be valid and the dowry should be determined by the court.
The Hanafi school regards only the sighah as essential. In sighah, clear words must be used, and qabul made in the same meeting where ijab is uttered.